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Just Eat Gilligan

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"Oh, Gilligan screwed it up! He always screws it up! Why don't they just kill him?"
Red Forman, That '70s Show, "Radio Daze"

A useless character can have his place in a show: as Plucky Comic Relief, a Kid-Appeal Character, or even a Hate Sink. But sometimes one person is so repeatedly and hopelessly incompetent that even the audience takes notice. If one character (or some other factor) is the main reason for every failure, why does the rest of the cast not account for that? Why do the rest of the castaways keep Gilligan around? Why don't they just shoot him? (or lock him in his room, have a volunteer take him somewhere out of the way, or send him on a Snipe Hunt?)

There may or may not be an in-universe explanation for why they don't do it, but the real answer is always some shade of "because if they did, there wouldn't be a series." Status Quo Is God, after all. Note that there's no guarantee that doing things the smart way would result in the plot's resolution, but you'd think the characters would at least try.

Take note of the fact that you can't both be able to write for major network television and not see this glaringly obvious stuff yourself. Overlooking it is either a wink to the audience about this being, you know, fiction and stuff, or a comment on the reasoning abilities of the characters. We, for example, have no problem believing the other castaways on Gilligan's Island would all miss an easy observation, for one reason or another.

The trope name comes from a question raised by Tom Servo during the riffing in an early Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode (SST Death Flight). Another question raised was "Why didn't they just fix the two-foot hole in the boat?"

This can be seen as a Sub-Trope of Idiot Ball as it's essentially an Idiot Ball so grand in scale that it doesn't just move the plot along—it keeps it alive. And when numerous characters in the cast fail to pick up on this Elephant in the Room, you've got yourself an Idiot Plot.

Not to be confused with Just Eat Him. When a villain falls prey to this trope, it is often Never Recycle Your Schemes, Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?, or Cut Lex Luthor a Check. See also The Millstone, when one character is the cause of this situation, "Fawlty Towers" Plot, when the source is a lie, Story-Breaker Power, when a character's special abilities should be able to solve the conflict, and Duels Decide Everything, when a fictional universe requires someone to win a sport against someone, even when there's no reason why they have to play, in order to do something of substance. If you were expecting this trope to be literal, i.e., if they did eat Gilligan, that would be an example of there being No Party Like a Donner Party. Contrast with For Want of a Nail, Who Will Bell the Cat? See also "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot, when characters acknowledge this mistake after the fact. For the many, many instances (In-Universe and out) where people argue "Just Kill The Joker!!!", please head to Joker Immunity. Contrast Simple Solution Won't Work for when it's explained or shown why it isn't viable in-universe.

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  • There was a series of Eggo Waffles commercials where a Bumbling Dad was constantly trying to steal the eponymous waffles from his daughter while she wasn't looking with his attempts always ending in Amusing Injuries. Honestly, why doesn't he just get his own Eggos out of the freezer, or better yet, buy himself some Eggo Waffles from the store?
  • Also, the kids from the Lucky Charms commercials; why don't they just buy their own, instead of chasing Lucky for them all the time? One explanation is that since they're kids, they can't buy their own things.
  • In the Allegedly Free Game for iOS and Android, State of Survival, the ads for the game seem to present the zombies as fairly incompetent - the fast type, yet Made of Plasticine - and docile until someone gets their attention through excessive noise. The family in the ads own a pit bull who always seems to ruin their day, because the dog just won't shut up. Cue the dog drawing the attention of the zombies (represented by stolen Left 4 Dead and 7 Days to Die assets) and forcing the family to leave safety for a woefully unfortified area. Since this seems to happen so often, why don't the family either train their animal to have restraint, or just get rid of it altogether and look for a more reliable companion, or (more drastically) just leave it there and let the zombies take care of the animal, if not shoot the damn thing themselves? The animal never seems to offer any assistance to the family, since the inexplicably instantly-constructed gun towers (that you can't have unless you either wait an inordinate amount of time or cough up the cash) take care of the zombies anyway. To sum it up, this animal is a liability which puts its owners at risk constantly and never provides any real benefit in return, so getting rid of it would surely make their lives better.
  • The Trix Rabbit commercials. Why can't the rabbit buy some Trix instead of stealing from a bunch of random kids?
    • One advert had him taking the long-suggested "buy your own cereal" option, only for the kids to steal it from him.
    • The rabbit's guest appearance in a Got Milk? commercial had him take the "buy your own" option as well, only for him to run out of milk. Though nothing's stopping him from just putting the costume back on and going out to buy milk.
  • Similarly, the Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles commercials. Barney steals cereal from Fred, who then chases after him angrily for it. Barney could spare himself from Fred's wrath if he just bought a box of the cereal himself instead of stealing Fred's.
  • Invoked in a commercial for Three Musketeers bars. One of the Musketeers wonders why the bandit that was chasing them didn't just go out and buy one of their candy bars.
  • For many years, the Maytag Repairman has had to find all sorts of ways to keep busy because Maytag appliances never need his services. Why doesn't he just quit his job and find another instead of being a non-working repairman for a washing machine brand that's Made of Indestructium? For that matter, why does Maytag keep him employed if there's no need for him?

    Asian Animation 
  • The conflict of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, at least in earlier seasons, is based around Wolffy the wolf wanting to capture the goats and cook them so that he and his wife Wolnie can eat them. Very rarely does the suggestion that they could just eat the goats raw ever come up, even though it would save Wolffy a lot of time and effort. With that said, the wolves actually do try to eat Paddi raw in episode 90 of Joys of Seasons; the only thing that keeps them from successfully consuming him is that their teeth crack, since they had just consumed an entire candy house that Paddi had built for himself.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men:
    • Rogue is a mutant who broods constantly because her mutant power has the potential to kill anyone she makes physical contact with. However, since mutant negation technology is an existing concept available (and has been shown to work on her in the past), it should be no problem to simply make a necklace or something with the embedded technology and just put an on/off switch on the circuit. End of meaningless brooding. This has been addressed a few times, most earliest being that it was revealed that, while a prisoner of the Genoshan government and forced to wear a power-suppressing collar, the Genoshan guards took advantage of her powerless state and raped her, so power-suppressing collars are a trauma button for her now. Later, Kelly Thompson's work on the character brought this plot point back and established that real issue is that power suppressing technology works via a component that also induces intense nausea and headaches, and because the only people typically interested in power-suppression are badguys, nobody's tried to make it more comfortable. Beast however, upon realising this, does attempt to make a better version of this technology.
    • Back when the Legacy Virus was ravaging Marvel's mutant population, a common fan suggestion was to intentionally infect Wolverine with the virus and use his antibodies to develop a cure. In fact, it's rather remarkable that this was not the way the writers ended up curing it. X-Men: The Animated Series however, did cure the virus in this manner.
    • The whole plot about the M-Pox (the incurable fatal disease du jour of The New '10s) seemed to have one solution that nobody wanted to try: find a way to turn the Terrigen Gas cloud roaming the Earth back into Terrigen crystals, especially because the Inhumans are so militant about defending anything related to their culture that trying to get rid of the gas any other way started yet another Crisis Crossover. One issue of Deadpool and the Mercs For Money written after the event showcased that the idea would have been doomed to failure anyway when Deadpool travels to an Alternate Universe where a mutant managed (at the cost of her life) to turn the gas back into crystals, and this supposed affront to the Inhumans' culture pissed off the Inhumans so much that they declared all-out war on mutantkind anyway.
  • Batman:
    • Many fans have, for years, been shouting for Batman to just kill The Joker. The counter-argument is that Batman fears that if he crosses that line, there will be no turning back. Compounding the issue is the fact that not only has Batman passed on opportunities to (entirely legally) kill the Joker, he has actively intervened to stop heroes with a different moral code from finishing off the psychopath, including perhaps most infamously The Punisher. Also bear in mind, on a memorable occasion when he finally went "fuck it" and tried to kill the Joker (in Batman: Hush), it was The Commissioner Gordon himself that stopped him, saying that if he tried to do that, he would consider Batman no better than the other mad-dog psychos over on Arkham and he would do whatever it took to take him down. Batman, thus, decided to stop — because he considers Gordon a friend, and he knows he needs Gordon on his side to be effective in his war.note 
    • Barbara Gordon was Batgirl, but was then crippled by the Joker in The Killing Joke. After that, she used her keen intellect to become the Knowledge Broker Oracle. For years, there was the underlying question: In a World… where Death Is Cheap and Science Heroes are shown healing all sorts of ailments worse than Barbara's, why is she still in a wheelchair? The In-Universe answer is she said that she wouldn't use her connections to get any sort of treatment unavailable to the public. Batgirl (2011) finally had her regain her mobility and become Batgirl again.
    • Joker is also just the most obvious example of an instance of this throughout most mainstream comics; why aren't supervillains executed by the government? While there's Hollywood Law in play as to why they don't, there has been a number of explanations used to justify it. Firstly there's just the matter of supervillains who are powerful/capable enough of escaping prison are probably not the easiest to kill; try dragging Joker to an execution, he'll use it an escape opportunity, meanwhile someone who's a Flying Brick is probably immune to anything they have on hand. Secondly, in both Marvel and DC, the US Government is quite aware of how useful supervillains could be as expendable agents and so will often recruit them from prison for wetwork missions (most notably in DC's Suicide Squad, but this was something Henry Peter Gyrich did a number of times in Marvel). Thirdly, killing supervillains has been historically shown as a bad idea because Death Is Cheap and Came Back Wrong is a common result. Barry Allen killing Eobard Thawne back in the mid-80s actually led to Thawne becoming even more dangerous, as he became a paradox entity who then went on to retroactively kill Barry's mother. In the DCAU, killing Joker led to him pulling a Grand Theft Me on Tim Drake, who he had tortured and experimented on right before hand. In the DCEU, Superman killing Zod gave Lex Luthor a perfectly good Kryptonian body to experiment on, resulting in Doomsday being created. In West Coast Avengers, Mockingbird killed her rapist, Phantom Rider, but he gained magical powers in the afterlife and came back as a ghost, and has effectively haunted her since. So don't kill a villain unless you know they'll stay dead.
  • Spider-Man is widely known for his Perpetual Poverty even though both fans and writers often point out many ways he could make plenty of cash.
    • Peter can't hold down a full time job due to his activities as Spider-Man. He could easily ask Tony Stark, The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. or any of the other extremely wealthy people and organizations he's allies with for a job that's flexible enough for him to do superhero work. He has actually tried this, however there's the issue of trust and Peter not being one who finds it easy to forgive others. He still doesn't trust Tony Stark after what he did during Civil War and S.H.I.E.L.D. once outright wiped his memory after "employing" him (never mind his parents were S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who then got killed and framed for treason, adding an extra layer of issue), and when he joined an iteration of the Avengers that actually paid their members, Victoria Hand had became part of the infrastructure and refused to pay him without him disclosing his identity, and he wouldn't do that because Victoria Hand had previously worked for his arch-nemesis, Norman Osborn.
    • Peter also often complains that he can't license his likeness or get paid for media appearances without revealing his true identity. However, when he guest taught a class at Avengers Academy his charges informed him that he could have started a LLC and made money hands over fist while still keeping his identity secret. Spidey is so flustered and taken aback that he immediately changes the subject.
    • This was finally addressed in a storyline where Peter took over Doctor Octopus's company after it was renamed Parker Industries.note  Unfortunately, the company was later ruined as a result of a struggle between Peter and Doc Ock.
    • Why he doesn't find a way to make money as Spider-Man, outside of selling photos. In The Amazing Spider-Man (Nick Spencer), this got touched on when Peter is employed by Jonah (who is now aware of his identity and has flipped into becoming his most ardent supporter, but in a typical Jonah manner), by having his suit record his actions as Spider-Man and livestream them for a viewing public. Though it's naturally popular and well-paying, it doesn't last long because this somewhat forces Peter to "play to a crowd", and he finds the experience too embarrassing and distracting. There's also the obvious risk of accidentally revealing his identity.
    • It all gets averted and justified in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with the two versions of Peter Parker. In Miles's universe, Peter Parker is rich from licensing his image, funding a high-tech hideout with tons of fancy gadgets underneath Aunt May's house. However, Peter B is still broke despite doing the same thing in his universe, due to his lack of business savvy and poor money management: his restaurant chain fails, his marriage breaks up, etc. The contrast between the two Peters confronts the Perpetual Poverty head-on with simple Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: being a superhero and genius inventor doesn't automatically grant success in business, nor safeguard you from scams, failure, and poor investments.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • There have been numerous characters that have enough mystical power to defeat Dr. Eggman, yet no one ever does. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles have all gained power enough to defeat Eggman on separate occasions each, typically becoming Reality Warpers of various degrees. Yet it never occurs to them to personally take out Eggman. It's not even a reluctance to kill Eggman, because they often have non-lethal measures available. However, Mobius: X Years Later suggests that killing Eggman is what's needed; there would be new threats, but Robotnik/Eggman wouldn't return in any form. And yet, no one ever just puts a bullet in Eggman's head and calls it a day.
      • This bit is actually discussed. While taking his Evil Counterpart Scourge to his Zone Cop counterpart, Zonic, Sonic asks Zonic why none of the Zone Cops went to arrest Dr. Eggman, as in this continuity (prior to the reboot) Eggman was a Robotnik from an alternate Mobius. Zonic tells him that a multiversal constant is that Sonic must fight a Robotnik - since Sonic killed his Robotnik and Eggman killed his Sonic, it was only a matter of time before they met; thus it's out of his hands.
    • Power Rings have the ability to grant its user's greatest wish, and the main source of Power Rings is located near the heroes' home city. This is why Ian Flynn only occasionally used the Rings in his run of the comics, as he acknowledged that there was nothing stopping the Freedom Fighters from simply wishing for world peace.
  • Runaways required one to believe that absolutely nobody outside of the team could possibly understand their motives for wanting to stick together instead of going into foster care. This finally ended with Avengers Academy, when Nico uses magic to create a mind-meld with the Avengers.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dennis the Menace (US): For George Wilson, it's "just spank Dennis" (or move away from Dennis, or get in Dennis' face and scream at him really loud to get the hell away from him, or go to the Mitchells and tell them that next time Dennis goes to his house he's going to call the cops, sue them, or do whatever it takes to obtain retribution for Dennis' mischief)... it's a proven fact that just being plain grouchy and pleading to Dennis isn't going to make him go away.
  • The Gilligan-specific question is justified in the comic strip Monty (formerly Robotman, then Robotman and Monty), when the main character is trapped on the island from Lost. He discovers that the mysterious other inhabitants of the island are commanded by Gilligan, now oddly reminiscent of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Gilligan reveals that he was only feigning incompetence to ensure that no-one ever escaped the island, actually being an evil mastermind. Killing Gilligan would still have been the better solution, but it would have been harder than not.
  • Charlie Brown's baseball team in Peanuts, which never wins a single game with him as the regular pitcher, invariably wins when he isn't playing (one strip even had the team obtain a 12-game undefeated streak while Charlie was sick only for it to be ruined when Charlie came back). Somehow it never seems to occur to him or anyone else to have him play a less important position, or even kick him out of the team.

    Fan Works 
  • The Aristocats' Island. If the castaways just got rid of Berlioz, they'd be off the island in at least a week! After all, it is a parody of the Trope Namer.
  • Discussed by the four in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. Paul mentions that the wizard Shaamforouz (whom they have grown to distrust) said that the Black Tower would destroy the amulet of mask-breaking if it was really that powerful. Ringo dismisses that by pointing out that it's useful to other people besides him, so why would they destroy something that useful just because there's a vague chance the good guys might get it? He also points out, with devastating logic, that the Amber Staff is a lot more dangerous for the Black Tower to let exist, because it's the centerpiece of the Nine-part Key, so why haven't they just destroyed it, or put it on a moon or something, which would instantly make it impossible for anyone to conquer them? But everyone knows it exists, so they must be using it for something.
  • In Second Wind, the Five Elder Stars order Sengoku to have Marineford's top brass attack the Straw Hat Pirates to prevent them from joining up with the Whitebeard Pirates in the New World. Sengoku is horrified, because regardless of whether or not they succeed in killing the Straw Hats, the Marines will still be weakened, and Whitebeard will still attack them. This situation could be solved by the World Government just letting the Straw Hats walk out the door with no resistance, but they're thoroughly convinced that option would be worse as it would tip the Balance of Power in Whitebeard's favor. Sengoku notes that the World Government is seemingly ignoring the fact that their half-baked idea to attack the Straw Hats will tip the balance of power to Whitebeard anyways. In fact, it's been noted by Sengoku that a lot of the Marines' problems wouldn't have happened if the World Government hadn't been so willing to jump to murder as their first option every time.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The LEGO Movie there is a massively popular Show Within a Show called Where Are My Pants? revolving around the single joke of the husband not being able to find his pants. This trope is parodied when Wyldstyle ends up on the set in order to make a broadcast across the universe and she simply chucks a pair of pants at the lead actor, declaring that the series is now over.
  • The third act of Aladdin happens because Aladdin doesn't free the Genie like he promised, because he needs the Genie's magic to keep pretending to be the phony prince that was allowed to marry Jasmine. Once the Genie actually is freed, we see that he still keeps all his magical powers — with the only difference being that he is no longer compelled to grant wishes. No one seems to have considered the option of freeing the Genie earlier, and then getting him to use his magic simply out of gratitude. It's possibly justified in that Genie's magic seems to be stronger when he is a prisoner of the lamp; an episode of the sequel series even has him specifically state that "[his] powers aren't what they used to be.
    Genie: Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty-bitty living space, ya know.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): Twilight's friends fight off the Storm King and his troops in the climax very easily, so doing this in the prologue would have saved us a movie.
  • In Song of the South Br'er Fox is obsessed with trying to capture Br'er Rabbit with needlessly complicated and sadistic schemes in order to prove he's cleverer than the prey that's outsmarted him countless times. Br'er Bear, who only cares about eating Br'er Rabbit, frequently remarks that it would be much simpler just to gang up on him and "knock his head clean off" with his club.
  • In Wizards Ralph Bakshi hangs a lampshade by overthrowing the trope at the climax: the good-guy wizard Avatar has spent the entire film trying to find a good-guy way to deal with his bad-guy wizard twin brother Blackwolf. Finally, after a ghastly war that has cost the lives of countless elves and fairies, in despair and totally out of ideas, he stands temporizing and delaying, apparently reminiscing about their mother, as Blackwolf prepares to zap him with powerful magic. Then he says "I'm glad you changed your last name, you son of a bitch", and does the one thing he had been refusing even to consider: pulls out a pistol and shoots Blackwolf dead. After which, in the last couple minutes of the movie, absolutely everything becomes just fine.
  • The Siege of Earth in the second tome of Dahak trilogy, "Armageddon Inheritance". For those who don't know the book: Earth's moon is in fact a spaceship so powerful it makes the Death Star look like a piece of junk, and the titular Dahak is the Benevolent A.I. controlling it. Sometime before the aforementioned Siege, Colin gets his hands on over 70 warships that make Dahak look like a piece of junk, but he doesn't have enough crew for all of them and their computers are complete idiots, which is why he needs Dahak to control them. There are two types of Faster-Than-Light Travel in the series: Enchanach Drive (warp drive by a different name) and Hyperdrive which is 3 times faster but doesn't allow communication during transit. Since they need Dahak to control most of the ships they travel by Enchanach Drive and reach the Earth 7 months after the Siege has started, and barely make it in time to save Earth (and a billion people have died already). This trope comes into play when you remember that while he didn't have the crew for all ships he did have the crew for some ships and he could have sent these few manned ships by Hyperdrive arriving much earlier before the siege even started. Considering how powerful the ships were, even one or two could've defeated the bad guys that attacked during the Siege with ease.
  • In Journey to the West, almost every story features Xuanzang believing Zhu Bajie's lies about Wukong, taking his bad advice, or taking his side in arguments. He gets captured by demons as a result, and despite this happening dozens of times in the story, he never realizes that Bajie is always wrong. Every single time.
  • Twilight:
    • In the second book, why did Alice not just call someone to check if Bella is dead since, presumably, she knows that her visions aren't always set in stone and can be altered? Why did she not wait to tell her family what was going on before she left to confirm what was up? It couldn't have taken more than a day or so to figure out, and it would certainly save Edward the trouble of thinking Bella's dead after leaping to conclusions from calling her father, who happened to be at a funeral.
    • Or if Edward had asked to speak with Bella, rather than Charlie, when he called, thereby avoiding the whole misunderstanding caused by Jacob saying that Charlie was arranging a funeral. Or if Jacob had said whose funeral Charlie was arranging (even something vague like "a friend"). Really, just one of any number of things could have prevented the whole thing from happening.
    • On the subject of Twilight, it would have saved a whole lot of trouble if the Cullens had just banded all seven of themselves together and ripped off the heads of the three vampires threatening Bella. One could argue that the Cullens were trying to be more peaceful than that, but their immediate plan after James and Victoria are out of sight and making plans of their own is to lure the two vampires away and kill them!
    • Eclipse would have been a lot shorter if the Cullens decided to drop on by Seattle and have a quick look in on the newborn who was going on an insane killing spree if only to keep away the Volturi if not to prevent further human deaths.
    • If Bree Tanner had realized that she could have run away as soon as it became evident that the leaders of the newborns she was with were dangerous (which she figured out very early on), there would have been no plot to the novella at all. Even if Bree didn't want to risk hiding in shade during the day, she still doesn't think to run away when she does learn that direct sunlight is safe!
    • Come to think of it, how much of the crap everyone in the series goes through could have been avoided if just one person in the entire Cullen family had realized just how badly Edward was coping with being a vampire and persuaded him to get some counseling?
  • Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt has a severe case of this. Beatrice and Seth could have solved all their problems at once, just by talking to each other and admit that they loved each other! But alas... At least Seth later admitted that he had been an idiot...
  • Henry Darger seems to have asked this question of himself in his monumental novel In the Realms of the Unreal. An inspirational portrait of a child rebel leader has been lost. Things have gone very badly for the good guys ever since. Darger has two generals asking each other how the loss of a picture could be responsible for the situation, expressing impatience with their own author and his obsessive search for the actual portrait he had lost in Real Life (here it is). He had threatened to have the bad guys win in his story if the picture was not returned or replaced.
  • The eponymous Ethan Frome could have saved everyone a lot of misery and just gotten himself a divorce from Zena.
  • Hyouka is a series about the protagonists solving mysteries around their school, usually through research and clever deduction. However, many mysteries, including some that form entire arcs) could be solved within a few minutes by questioning the people involved. For example, one mystery involved a library book that was constantly being dropped off within hours of being picked up, and there was no known connection between any of the people who borrowed it. Rather than simply asking any of the people involved, they spend half an episode coming up with various theories, analyzing every little detail, and wracking their brains over what could possibly be going on.
  • The Shining: Wendy could have saved herself a lot of hassle if she'd just taken Danny and sucked it up and gone to stay with her bitchy mother in September when Jack started showing signs of drinking.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • If Ned Stark had held off confronting Cersei until after he had gathered a force of trustworthy soldiers and made sure his daughters' safety was secured, then he wouldn't have been betrayed and executed, and Sansa and Arya wouldn't have been at his enemies' mercy.
    • Jorah Mormont ruined his life and drove his House into destitution trying to support the affluent lifestyle of his highborn wife. However, it's never explained why he didn't just ask his obscenely rich in-laws for the money needed to keep their daughter happy. Although, the most likely reason was that Jorah is so prideful that he would sooner die than ask anyone for help.
    • In the second book, Arya, while being held as a prisoner of war, is rewarded by an assassin she had previously saved with her choice of three deaths. She wastes the first two on cruel soldiers and uses the third to help free some of her brother's high-ranking soldiers and start an uprising in the camp. She later realizes that she should have used one of the deaths to kill someone important like Tywin Lannister and cripple the Lannister war effort.
    • Tyrion and Cersei spend much of the second book competing against one another for control over King's Landing. The thing is, Cersei is Queen Regent and is, on paper at least, the highest authority in the country. There's nothing stopping her from just overruling whatever decision Tyrion makes and she could easily strip him of his position and power if she thinks he's undermining her. Conversely, since he knows that one of her significant personality traits is fear of her rightful power being taken away from her, if he had made more of an attempt to keep her in the loop for his plans there would have been a lot less drama during the book, and would probably have caused him fewer problems down the road. The worst example is when she tries to smuggle her younger son out of the city for safety, Tyrion orders the boy kidnapped simply to take him to another safe haven anyway. Of course, it's made pretty evident that Tyrion is getting off on the rush of power through the book.
  • Most of the plots in the Redwall series could have been avoided had the heroes simply killed the villain(s) of the book or neutralized them before they could begin their campaign of evil, or simply fortified the Abbey and made it impossible for villains to raid. Or rather, since the abbey is already an impressively-walled stronghold, keep that damn wicker gate locked so the Abbey children won't go off into the woods again. It's somewhat justified by each book taking place years apart, so the precautions taken during times of siege are often forgotten or outright unnecessary by the time the next vermin army comes rolling up.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: For Greg Heffley, it's "Just Run Away From Home" (or "Just Get The Heffley Family Some Counseling", or "Just Ground Rodrick", or "Just Make Greg Grow Up"), as it's a proven fact that using a "journal" to vent about how bad your life is usually doesn't work in solving your problems.
  • Harry Potter: In the first book Harry finds that he has inherited a lot of money, and feels really guilty since his friend Ron Weasley is stuck in Perpetual Poverty. In the second book, Ron breaks his wand early on so that it only works some of the time, and is stuck with this for the whole book since his family is too poor to buy a new one. While this becomes important for a major plot point, it's never explained why, if Harry has so much more money, he doesn't just buy Ron a new one. Even if it's somehow embarrassing to have your friend buy you a replacement wand, he could just buy it and have it sent to him secretly. Possibly justified due to Harry being 12 when this was a problem.
  • The Savior's Series: A big chunk of the conflict in the first book is driven by Tobias feeling torn between his growing love for Leila and the fact he must win the Savior's hand in marriage to survive and provide for his family; he confides in Leila about this issue on several occasions and even deliberately fails some of the tasks because of his hang-ups about Leila. The situation could've been resolved fairly easily if Leila had just told him she was actually the Savior, though of course she has to keep it secret for some reason or there's no conflict. It would also resolve the problems in their relationship, given that Leila is constantly getting jealous over Tobias spending time with Cosima and feeling upset about him berating the Savior even though he doesn't know Leila is the Savior because she won't tell him the truth.

  • Carmen Sandiego: Acme Crime Labs has near-alien technology at their disposal yet every time they catch Carmen she winds up in a Cardboard Prison that she easily escapes from for her next caper, or (half the time) she escapes and they don't bother going after her. However, Acme's agents never once think about taking the (quite drastic) approach of putting a bullet in her brain while she's trying to get away (as with the Hulk example in Western Animation, sniper rifles were invented to kill people that would be too dangerous to approach directly, or in this case, cannot be stopped easily, so Carmen probably qualifies). However, the franchise does run on the MST3K Mantra due to much of the media in it being edutainment material, so it's justified somewhat.
  • Horrid Henry: It's very likely that Henry's Mum and Dad wouldn't have to deal with Henry's bad behaviour if they just used a different type of discipline instead of yelling at him and sending him to his room or if they just hired a nanny.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic lampshades this when singing about Gilligan in "Isle Thing"
    He messed up every rescue
    Man, that first mate was illing
    If I were one of them castaways
    I think I'd probably kill him

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Eric Young spent weeks trying to convince Joseph Park that he and his masked brother Abyss were the same person. He could have just got him to remove his shirt, revealing the distinctive mix of tattoos and scars that cover Abyss's arms. It is a case of Fridge Logic that Park apparently never noticed or thought about the tattoos himself.

  • The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show manages to apply this to the bard himself, in the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet, when the Prince breaks up a brawl between the Capulets and Montagues:
    Prince: Desist! Desist, I say!
    Sampson: But then there'd be no play.
    Prince: Oh. Carry on, then.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The Pokémon franchise has been on-and-off about all this. Sure, its kid-friendly status prevents the player trainer from being outright murdered on-screen (Ardos' plan to blow up Citadark Isle is rejected by Greevil, while N stops Ghetsis from freezing them), but Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is the only instance in the games where the player trainer is directly attacked with no interruption (in this case, Wakin puts Michael to sleep and jacks the Snag Machine while he's out cold). With that being said, it is also one of the few games in the series that The Pokémon Company pretends doesn't exist.
    • Speaking of Ghetsis, no reason is given for why he didn't try to freeze the player again after dealing with N's dragon. Instead he allows the player to take Kyurem on in a fair battle, leading to his very downfall...
  • In Double Homework, when the protagonist’s friends were planning the yacht party, some of them wanted to exclude Henry from the plans because they were afraid that he couldn’t keep it a secret from the protagonist. They were right.
  • It's been said that the quickest way to "win" The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is to obtain the first Plot Coupon and then turn the game off. If a villain needs three MacGuffins to make their evil plan work and the hero has obtained one, there's usually no real reason to go after the others and every reason not to (granted, if Link isn't doing anything, Ganondorf can easily kill him and take the stone. That's not to mention the whole "destiny" thing). In fact, Word of God states that in the "Child" Timeline (the one Link is sent back to at the end of Ocarina), this is exactly how Zelda and Link keep Ganondorf from invading the Sacred Realm.
  • Villainous example: In Mega Man Battle Network, it takes the villains until the second-to-last non-postgame cut scene in the series to realize that three adults taking on Kid Hero Lan in real life is a better idea than taking on MegaMan in cyberspace. Only BubbleMan uses a dangerous machine with no access ports. This prevents anyone from getting their Navis in and hacking the machine to stop. BubbleMan's plan failed because defeating him also shuts down the machines. But the clear point remains, the ONLY way the majority of the cast can combat the bad guys is by sending Navis into their machines, so if the villains just used machines with no access ports, or used more real-world obstacles, the heroes would be powerless to stop them. Lan isn't even armed, defeating him in person is literally as easy as walking over and subduing a school kid.
    • Even the heroic characters are kind of stupid. The crowning achievement is the third game. The plot revolves around the bad guys trying to obtain a Digital Abomination computer program that was sealed away by four keys. Why the authorities don't just delete the keys or put the program on a server and then physically destroy the server is never explained. note 
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • If RED stopped building railway tracks leading from their base to the BLU base, it would be harder to blow up their base. Their reasoning is that they want to send a cart of their own to blow up the BLU base. Further parodied in the "Mann vs. Machine" update, where waves of robots are able to blow up Mann Co.'s bases due to giant bomb holes in the ground. The update comics say they're rethinking that particular policy.
    • Why the Demoman doesn't just have the Medic, a Mad Scientist who can raise people from the dead and has put a baboon uterus in a grown man while he was under, grow him a new eye is explained in one comic: Medic has grown his eye back several times, but every Halloween it comes to life like his first eye, indicating that his eye socket itself is haunted and any further attempts will end the same way.
  • The plots of Grand Theft Auto IV and its expansion The Ballad of Gay Tony would be enormously shorter if the main characters were allowed to use the massive amounts of money they earn to just pay off the debts of the characters they are protecting. By about the middle of IV specifically, Niko can easily be sitting on over a quarter million dollars but you'll still be doing missions for loan sharks that Roman owes money to without the option of just paying them off. This wouldn't solve all the problems but it would make them much more manageable.
    • Similarly, the plot of Grand Theft Auto V would be much shorter if the player characters were allowed to just kill all the various antagonists that blackmail them right away, instead of being forced to wait until the final mission.
    • Ditto for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. CJ could have solved a lot of problems for himself and Grove Street if he just capped Tenpenny and the rest of C.R.A.S.H. at the first chance he got (like what he can do to all the other cops in normal gameplay) rather than let them blackmail him with a cop killing he didn't do.
  • The plot of Higurashi: When They Cry could have been solved very quickly, although the cast can be forgiven for not realizing it under the circumstances. It takes six full rounds of them slaughtering each other before they realize, halfway through the seventh round, that none of it would happen if they'd just trust each other for once. When they start the eighth story with this information and work together from the start, it becomes a Curb-Stomp Battle against the true enemies. It also doesn't help that there's a vicious Hate Plague at work, which makes cooperation quite a bit harder.
  • In the first Spyro the Dragon game, you rescue around eighty full-grown dragons. Most of them give you some helpful advice, sure, but why don't any of them help you fight Gnasty? Because the dragons you rescue in Gnasty's World are dragons you freed previously, there is an implication that if the dragons helped fight him, they'd just be encased in crystal again, but nothing is outright stated. The sequels at least give reasons for it, e.g. in Gateway to Glimmer/Ripto's Rage, Spyro's the only dragon available to stop Ripto's takeover of Avalar, since there's no actual portals to the Dragon Realm. In Year of the Dragon, he's the only dragon who can fit through the small hole left by the intruders after they stole the dragon eggs.
  • In the HD remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater this is lampshaded; killing Ocelot gets you the "Problem Solved, Series Over" trophy.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword deserves some kind of reward for the stupid decision that doesn't just help this game's villain, but makes about 85% of all misery in Hyrule ever possible. You spend about a third of the game trying to open a Gate of Time so you can find Zelda, where you learn nothing that Impa or Fi couldn't have just told you. Opening the Gate of Time is mandatory to acquire the Triforce to obliterate the villain in the present by elevating the Master Sword to its full power, but rather than ask the old lady (actually a future version of Impa) to dismiss the gate when you were done with it, the protagonists give Ghirahim the opportunity to haul Zelda through it and revive his master. Had the gate been dismissed on time, the Big Bad would have been obliterated without undue drama and Ganondorf wouldn't be tearing Hyrule a new asshole time and again.
  • A lot of the problems that occurred in Dead Island could have been avoided if Jin was just left at the church. For context there was no real reason to bring her along, she would have been a lot safer, and she would not have snapped and made things worse.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga; After Mario and Luigi put the Beanstar back together, they get a message from Bowletta (Bowser possessed by Cackletta), where they want Mario and Luigi to hand the Beanstar over to them at Joke's End in exchange for Princess Peach's freedom. After the message is done, Prince Peasly proposes to use a fake replica of the Beanstar to give to the baddies to trick them without giving up the real deal. Mario and Luigi could've left the real Beanstar at Beanbean Castle for safekeeping, where it belongs, and take only the fake one in the event the villains see through the trick. But they bring both the fake Beanstar and the real Beanstar to Joke's End. Unfortunately, Fawful sees through the trick and knocks out Luigi when he shows the fake Beanstar, and steals the real one from him. Mario then ends up having to resort to dressing Luigi in drag as Peach to trick Bowletta into believing Princess Peach herself was an imposter while Luigi himself is kidnapped in her place.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places), most of the plot of the game is driven by how Larry has inadvertently acquired a microfilm inside a rare Peruvian Onklunk. While it could be argued that Larry doesn't have any particular reason to ditch the instrument, the player may get frustrated that all these random characters are trying to kill him for a useless item that, in the end, just gets ditched in a jungle without any player input.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica Portable, if Sayaka confesses to Kyousuke that she's a Magical Girl, he'll actually believe her and compose a song for her, thus averting her tragedy in the canon all because she Gave Up Too Soon.
  • A fair amount of problems in Red Dead Redemption II could have been mitigated had Arthur chosen to not rescue Micah from prison early on or had him killed at some point before the end. While it wouldn't have solved all the problems it would make them a lot less worse (as well as preventing the first game from happening)
  • Donkey Kong 64: How do you open the doors to the bosses? By gathering enough bananas and using them to fully fatten a hippopotamus so that a heavy pig on the other side of a teeter-totter can reach the lock and unlock it, of course! As opposed to simply having them switch places on the teeter-totter and have the hippo unlock it.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Justice For All, the murderer of the final case hires a professional assassin to kidnap Maya and hold her hostage in order to coerce Phoenix into getting Matt Engarde acquitted. In other words, instead of threatening the prosecution or the judge, he goes after the one person in the court whose job it is to keep him out of jail.
    • In Apollo Justice, one case involves a young boy allegedly killing a man at a concert using a gun with recoil too strong for him to wield without severely injuring himself before dragging the 250-pound corpse to the middle of the stage for no apparent reason and the prosecution puts forth the idea that the teenage boy was able to accomplish all this by secretly being an Interpol agent with the defense never pointing out the ridiculousness of the accusations being presented.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: A lot of the events of the game's story could have been avoided if characters just simply talked to each other about their motivations and reasons instead of defaulting to not telling someone why they are doing the things they do. While some of the characters potentially wouldn't (Dimitri being consumed by hatred to the point he wouldn't listen, Rhea on Crimson Flower, etc), others often never bother telling anyone why they are making choices, even when some outright ask. For example: Edelgard never bothers trying to tell Claude why she is doing what she is doing, despite them having very similar goals and views on the future of the world and Claude outright asking her to tell him why, Rhea never once tries telling anyone what she knows about Byleth's birth or nature despite doing so avoiding her seeming manipulative to people, and Dimitri never, even after walking back on his hatred, asks Edelgard what her involvement was with the Tragedy of Duscur. After a certain point, it becomes really clear that just having characters sit down and try to talk about the 'why' for their actions could have avoided so much drama or conflict, but many characters just never do so.

    Web Comics 
  • In Bob and George, this strip tweaks the way that Megaman can teleport, but never goes straight to the robots' lair. He notes in the commentary that this could be justified by something to prevent teleportation, but never is.
  • In Clown Corps, the agents of the titular organization dress as clowns to protect their identities from their many enemies. Detective Soto, a police officer who's heavily critical of the Corps and their insistence on maintaining their clown motif, remarks they could get similar results by just wearing sunglasses.
  • Red String had Reika think she was pregnant after she and Eiji have sex for the first time (with protection). She never says why she thinks she is, for all we know Reika might just think that sex = babies no matter what. Instead of people telling her to go get a pregnancy test or getting one herself, a majority of Chapter 51 is spent with Reika, Eiji, and Miharu thinking that she's pregnant and the consequences thereof. We find out that no, she wasn't pregnant at all. Had Reika just sucked up and taken a test, all the very unnecessary angst and worry would have been avoided.

    Web Original 
  • Has happened more than a few times in movies that Film Brain has reviewed, leading to his catchphrase, "Why don't they just (insert smarter course of action here)? Oh right, because we wouldn't have a movie!"
  • Many, many video-game creepypastas, such as Sonic.exe, have the protagonist continue playing The Most Dangerous Video Game even after they realize it's haunted. However, nothing is preventing them from stopping, meaning that the player could simply turn the game off and get rid of it.
    • Same goes with many Lost Episode creepypastas, which have the protagonist still sitting through a horrifying lost episode of an old kids' TV show even after they've realized the tape/DVD it's on is haunted. However, nothing prevents them from turning the TV off and then getting rid of the tape/DVD.
      • In particular, "Blue's Clues - No Clues" is one big example. The tape's haunted, it won't eject from the VCR, and it even managed to magically cut the telephone lines. However, nothing's stopping the protagonist and his sisters from turning the VCR off or getting out of the house and going to the police.
  • The series How It Should Have Ended is pretty much dedicated to pointing these out. Examples are The Lord of the Rings (blindfold the eagles and fly them straight from Rivendell into Mordor), Predator (if the Predator doesn't attack unarmed people because it's not good sport, just ditch all the weapons), and Star Wars (don't wait until the Death Star has gone all the way around the planet that the rebel base orbits, just blow up the planet - in the original video, or lightspeed around the planet to the appropriate side -in the updated version, and you'll have a clear shot at the base).
  • This gets lampshaded for an off-screen plotline that happened between Noob and Noob: Le conseil des trois factions. Long-time enemies Tenshirock the hacker and Judge Dead the Game Master have decided that if the latter catches the former in-game, both of them retire. A third party made aware of the situation points out that Tenshirock could simply let himself get caught.
  • In RWBY several characters gave up hope (at least temporarily) after learning that Salem has Complete Immortality, and no one has any plan to defeat her. Thing is, even before her immortality was established, we learned of the Maiden Vaults that are effectively pocket dimensions she explicitly cannot open on her own. Later on, it's also heavily implied the vaults were made by the Relic of Creation, who can build almost anything. Incapacitating her long enough to put her in either a vault or a more-secure magical prison wouldn't be easy, but has been proven possible. Not to mention, Semblances such as memory eraser, Mind Control, and power amplification exist, creating a multitude of possibilities for at least neutralizing her.
  • Explained by an Idiot: Frequently pointed out in videos.
    • Up: At the beginning, when Russell wants to earn his badge, Carl could have just pretended that Russell helped him and signed off on the badge, meaning that Russell would earn it and leave Carl alone.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Idiot Premise, Just Eat The Mac Guffin


Dead Eagle Joke

MatPat talks about how it's been a while since he discussed Lord of the Rings, bringing up the last theory about how Gandalf wanted the Fellowship to use the Eagles to fly to Mordor, a popular theory. He theorized that the show runners behind its prequel show, the Rings of Power, were so annoyed at the theory that they subjected an eagle to not only death by a Fell Beast, but also is set on fire and crashes into the middle of a battlefield within the first five minutes of the show.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / DiscreditedMeme

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